Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health Care or Health Fear?

Have you been listening to the healthcare reform debate? Mostly it just confuses me. On many levels.

I suppose the biggest point of confusion for me is this movement to stifle debate and turn it into the lowest form of discourse -- name calling, shouting, not allowing conversation, misdirection, not listening.

When did the freedom of speech become freedom to end discussion?

I also don't understand this need to make people afraid of healthcare when associated with government. Medicare and medicaid has certainly saved alot of lives. Is it a perfect system? No. But then again privately owned insurance companies are designed to best benefit only a few -- the owners/shareholders. I suppose if I had invested heavily in insurance companies or held a big block of stock in them, I might be against a program that will cause the company to provide better service at perhaps an impact on profits. Yet, I have this altruistic part of me who thinks that everyone is entitled to good health and pursuit of their life goals.

This conversation about government telling us what we can and can't do as far as health treatments sounds familiar. Oh, that's right. My INSURANCE PROVIDER already does that! HMO -- it tells me who I can seek treatment from AND then tells me what treatments I can and cannot get. My son's health is impacted by a lifelong weight problem. He wants to do something about it and gastric bypass surgery was recommended by his physician. But, his insurance won't cover that 'cosmetic' surgery.

I know, I know, fat people are simply undisciplined and lazy and all of those other negative stereotypical attitudes. This is no more true than saying that people with chronic depression should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, suck it up and stop indulging in a pity party. Or a woman with breast cancer should just get them cut off and stop trying to save all parts of her body. Or someone with diabetes ate too many sweets. Or people with heart disease brought it on themselves....

I will readily admit that I do not understand what is being proposed by President Obama. I thought in all innocence that he was offering an opportunity to publicly debate the pros and cons and come up with a better health care plan that all can live with. But obviously free and open and rational and intelligent discourse frightens a very vocal faction of the country. So they replace communication and facts with fear.

Killing Grandma? We don't need a government to mandate that. We already have doctors and insurance providers who determine that people with white hair deserve less heroic measures to prolong their lives. The American Medical Association has noticed that its members don't know how to talk to older folk, so they have special training in geriatrics. Yet for the longest time when I accompanied Mom to see doctors, or have tests, or discuss options, the health care providers turned to me and ignored Mom completely. There are good reasons to color your hair and try to look younger. White hair and wrinkles are a form of invisibility accompanied by decreased value.

But what about our status quo coverage? I can only speak from my own experience. If and when my husband is unemployed, we cannot afford insurance. Right now we devote 10 percent of our income to pay insurance premiums and that is with his employer offering a company discount and picking up part of the cost as one of his benefits. In addition to that 10 percent; we spend at least another 10 to 15 percent on out of pocket health care expenses. So with one of the better health care situations we are still paying 25 percent of our "GROSS" income on health care. And that is with one of us generating virtually no health care costs.

Did you know that a power wheelchair costs the same as a KIA -- maybe more. A lift and a van to convey this power wheelchair so that my husband can still work -- another $65,000. And before you shake your head and say, "Well, if he had only been more proactive, had practiced preventative medicine" let me tell you that he INHERITED this disease. But all people who are diagnosed with ALS have done NOTHING to cause the disease. At least doctors have never found a reason for this spontaneous generation other than a few rare cases such as Derrol who inherit a mutant gene -- something research discovered only recently.

Our situation is dire.

My husband's disease is incurable. He will continue to degenerate and be unable to work in a not too distant future. At that time he will lose his income AND his healthcare AND he'll die within an abbreviated time due to lack of care. He pays about $400 a month for one pill that treats the illness. We can barely afford that right now. If he is forced to get new insurance -- he will not be covered for the very thing that is taking his life.

The sad part is that companies treat people as raw materials or expenses and pursue profit rather than making a quality product. Because of this dehumanization, we have been forced to follow his job from state to state as companies downsize or buy each other out and relocate or lay off employees. These decisions have very little to do with product.

Yet, while some people have put down roots, invested in a property 30 years ago at a much smaller cost, we have relocated during the highest housing costs in history. And we are not alone. The highest number ever of employees are relocating due to downsizing, buy outs, take overs and consolidations.
We were forced to invest in something that has now lost a great deal of its value, just so my husband could continue to work. Companies did not focus on product. They focused on profit. They didn't have concern for employees, but used them to build profits. The personal cost of these relocations have been tremendous. Our family is separated. Our investments are almost worthless and we're facing a future without health care coverage. The very company who pays my husband's wages have also put us in a precarious position far from our roots and family. But hey, 'everybody' does it.

Many companies don't provide health care because they hire only part-time employees and do not offer benefits to them. And with unemployment numbers at this level, even more people face each day praying that no catastrophic illness or accident will send them into bankruptcy or make them face death rather than life because they can't afford the treatment. Many small businesses -- such as the one-man business who tiled our floors so my husband could use his wheelchair in the house or the man who painted our house -- have no benefits.

Recently I wrote about fabric artist Anna Millea who couldn't get insurance coverage because of a pre-existing illness. The same will happen to my husband if he is forced to find coverage elsewhere. Our sons already are under covered or seeking government assistance to provide for medical needs. Our oldest son has had diabetes since he was five years old (No he didn't indulge in sweets!) and whatever insurance he gets will probably NOT pay his most needed health care.

We must have a better plan so that the United States does not turn further toward a have and have-not divided country.
You can push people only so far until they fight back. Right now if we look around we'll see alot of angry people who have been raising the crime rate because they can not have a reasonable life within the legal limits. The rise of gangs instead of the sanctity of family -- do you really think that is a choice anyone truly wants to make. But we all need a support system. Someone who will protect and care for us or at least stand beside us to support us while we pursue or life goals. No man is an island. We all need to hang together or we fall apart.

We need reasonable and rational discussions. We need a better health care plan. And we need to lower the cost of health care. The country already pays trillions on health care. Why not find a way to make those dollars more effective?

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